Complex Ecologies of Trust in Data Practices and Data-driven Systems

Robin Steedman, Helen Kennedy, Rhianne Jones

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Trust in data practices and data-driven systems is widely seen as both important and elusive. A data trust deficit has been identified, to which proposed solutions are often localised or individualised, focusing either on what institutions can do to increase user trust in their data practices or on data management models that empower the individual user. Scholarship on trust often focuses on typologies of trust. This paper shifts the emphasis to those doing the trusting, by presenting findings from empirical research which explored user perspectives on the data practices of the BBC. These findings challenge the assumption that localised or individualised solutions can be effective. They also suggest that conceptualisations of trust in data practices need to account for the complex range of factors which come into play in relation to trust in data and so move beyond the production of typologies. In this paper, we propose the concept of ‘complex ecologies of trust’ as a way of addressing all of these issues.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation, Communication & Society
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)817-832
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes
EventThe 20th Annual Conference of the Association-of-Internet-Researchers. AoIR 2019 - Brisbane, Australia
Duration: 2 Oct 20195 Oct 2019
Conference number: 20


ConferenceThe 20th Annual Conference of the Association-of-Internet-Researchers. AoIR 2019
Internet address

Bibliographical note

Published online: 8 April 2020


  • Trust
  • Trustworthiness
  • Data
  • Data practices
  • Complex ecologies

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